Runner Profile:  Hazel McLaughlin

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Last year, Hazel McLaughlin accepted a challenge from friend and fellow runner Denise Mathers (Newry City Runners) to run every day in 2012.  Three hundred and sixty six days later (it was a leap year!) she successfully completed the challenge.

However, Hazel wasn’t always so into her running.  Like a lot of people she only realised her love for the sport after taking it up in her late 20’s.  Since then, with the help of her coach, John Glover (Lagan Valley AC) she has improved year after year and established herself as a well respected competitor over nearly every terrain.  Hazel’s hard training and fantastic racing paid off when she was selected for the Northern Ireland team to compete at the Commonwealth Mountain Running Championships in 2011 and Snowdon in 2012.

Full Name:  Hazel McLaughlin
Current Category:  Female Vet35
Associated Club:  Lagan Valley AC
Personal Bests:  5k – 20:33, 10K – 42:33, 10 miles – 1:12:44, Half Marathon – 1:34:04, Marathon -3:29:30, Ultra Marathon:  51k (Off-Road) – 5:34:28, Ultra Marathon:  53 miles (Off-Road) 11:34:56.

What is your favourite Northern Ireland event?   It’s really hard to pick a favourite, especially as I race over so many different distances and terrain.  On the road, I would say Larne Half Marathon as it’s so scenic. It goes out the Coast Road and the old course went past my mum and dad’s house in Cairncastle, so I get lots of support on the way round.  On the trail, I ran a new 12k race last year in Tollymore Forest that I really enjoyed and managed to finish as 3rd lady.  In the mountains, the Hill & Dale series is great, particularly ‘Binnian to the Top’, it’s an uphill only race so those who normally fly past me in the descent don’t get a chance to.

When did you start running?   I didn’t get involved in running until my late 20’s though I enjoyed a variety of sports at school, I was into kickboxing and even coached gymnastics for a few years.  I was watching my now husband, Eamonn, running the Belfast Marathon Relay in 2001, went home and applied for the New York Marathon, even though I didn’t actually run at the time. Needless to say it wasn’t my best time for a marathon!  I returned to running in 2004 and joined Lagan Valley AC where John Glover, my coach, really encouraged me and I have never looked back.

Why do you run?   It’s really just part of my life now.  I love feeling fit, pushing myself, the buzz of racing and sense of achievement when I do well. The flexibility of running really suits my lifestyle, wherever I am I can just throw on a pair or trainers and head out.  It’s a great de-stress from work and I also enjoy the social side after the races.

You race over a variety of terrains (Road, Mountain, Trail etc), do you have a favourite?  if so, why?  My favourite is definitely the off-road races.  I’m probably better suited to trail running and longer distances but I love being up in the mountains.  I like the climbing side, and there is nothing better than reaching the top of a really tough climb knowing that you have a long grassy decent back down.  The views are great and I love being outdoors, whatever the weather.

What is your next race and what do you want from it?  My next race is Carnethy 5, it’s approximately 6 miles with 2500ft of climbing, over five tops in the Pentland hills near Edinburgh.  I’m heading over with two of my Lagan Valley team mates, Shileen O’Kane and Ann Sanford, so it would be great if we could get a team prize, though it will be a very tough field.  After that I will be training hard for the British Championship race in Silent Valley, which will also help get me in shape for the Mountain running season.

What is your favourite training ‘session’?   I don’t like to miss my Monday night track session with Lagan Valley AC, but my favourite has got to be hill reps, 8 x 2-3 mins, with a jog recovery, as it really gets your heart rate going and of course, nothing beats a couple of hours in the Mourne Mountains for a long easy run.

What is your favourite pre-race and post-race meals?  On the morning of a race I will have porridge and some fruit, and depending on the time of the race a bagel / toast with peanut butter.  I won’t eat 3 hours before a race, and an hour before I have an energy drink.  Post-race; I tend to have fruit, nuts and flavoured milk as I am not overly hungry, then a nice meal in the evening like fillet steak and salad.

What is your running ambition?   I feel I’ve still got the potential to get faster, so I would like to finish higher up the rankings.  Last year I ran every day of the year as a challenge and also raced a lot so this year I want train hard but not race quite as much, so I will concentrate on the NIMRA series and some Hill & Dale races.  In the future I’d like to be picked for the Ireland Mountain running team again, and also do well at the World Masters Uphill Mountain Race in the Czech Republic in September 2013.  I also feel I have a good marathon time in me but that will have to wait a year or two.

What would you consider your greatest achievement in running to be?  That would have to be getting selected for the Northern Ireland team for the Commonwealth Mountain Running Championships.  It was a great experience and really motivated me to train harder in the mountains.  However, I would like to hope that my greatest achievement is still ahead of me.

What other sports do you like?  I do Pilates every week which helps my running, the core strength is great for off-road, but I tend to stick to running and find the variety of terrain keeps me interested.  I am determined to try Kayaking this year though!